Bistro on a budget

Jackie Stewart

Warm and friendly faces convinced Sylvia Jones to give Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe a try. The low prices and healthy choices have kept the Evanston resident coming back, she said.

“I was on my way to Taco Bell — true story,” Jones said. “I saw that this had opened up and decided to stop. The lady at the door had such a smile on her face that I decided to check it out. And I’m glad to say I haven’t been back to Taco Bell since.”

Since her first visit, Jones said she has eaten at Camille’s, 1741 Sherman Ave., once or twice a week, ordering dishes such as a hot turkey wrap with a small vinegarette salad.

“The salads have fresh greens, not just lettuce,” she said. “This is a healthy eating option with a price (I) can afford. It fits into my budget.”

Opened in February 2004, the Evanston location is part of the Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe franchise system, recent 543-restaurant expansion. Twenty-eight more cafes are in development to open in Illinois, according to Camille’s Web site.

Founded in October 1996 by David and Camille Rutkauskas, the first Camille’s opened in Tulsa, Okla. Currently there are 39 locations across the country with five locations in Illinois.

At the Evanston restaurant, silk flowers in green Perrier bottles top every table and giant red lamps hang from the ceiling. When the weather is warm, Camille’s employees open the outdoor patio to patrons and lights tiki lamps at night.

“I love the lamps and the decor,” said Evanston resident Marcia Fromm. “The food is better than any other place and it seems really healthy.”

Camille’s light menu features wraps, paninis and salads ranging from $5.50 to $6.95. Patrons also may customize any item because no items on the menu are premade, said Nimisha Patel, one of Camille’s managers.

All ingredients are chopped and prepared fresh daily, she said.

Camille’s also strives to cater to the student population, Patel said. With the purchase of an entree after 4 p.m., Northwestern students can pick up a free smoothie.

“We want to make this affordable for college students,” Patel said. “We want to give back to the community because the student population is a pretty big part of our business. When I was a college student, I was always looking for extra cash and this is a way we can provide that.”